Graham Sustainability Institute

Undergraduate Sustainability Scholars Grateful for Unique Program

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Imagine walking into your office to find multiple strings hanging from your ceiling, each holding dozens of colorful, personal thank you cards and drawings. Well, that’s exactly what Graham Sustainability Institute Education Director and Program in the Environment (PiteE) Lecturer Mike Shriberg, Ph.D., found last summer, when a group of Graham Undergraduate Sustainability Scholars teamed up to share how much he and the Scholars program meant to them. Here’s just a sample of what the students had to say:

  • “The Graham Scholars program has, without a doubt, been one of the defining experiences of my college career. I will carry the lessons I’ve learned here always.” — Kendall Effinger
  • “The Scholars program had such a positive impact on my time at U-M. I can’t even imagine what my experience would have been like without it.” — Sarah Schwimmer
  • “My evolution as a student, as well as a person, is directly linked to the many opportunities and experiences I’ve had with the Graham Scholars Community.” — Abby Krombein
  •  “I have been exposed to so many new ideas and alternative perspectives. The Scholars program has been a key element of my personal growth throughout college.” — Marie Tysman

Open exclusively to top-performing undergraduate students at U-M, the Graham Undergraduate Sustainability Scholars program engages 25 students per year in action-based learning and co-curricular activities that foster systems thinking skills and leadership development for sustainability. Sustainability Scholars explore natural, social, economic, political, and technological aspects of complex sustainability issues. They also become part of an interdisciplinary sustainability leadership program and receive special access to, and funding for, field-based experiences.

The fact that so many students took time to craft such special thank you greetings is testimony to the engaging and personal nature of this 11-credit, supplemental studies program, which celebrates its fifth year in 2014. Students are literally transformed by the experience.

“The Scholars program is a unique opportunity for students to have an empowering learning experience,” said Shriberg, who oversees the program. “Participants not only become part of a community of like-minded sustainability scholars, but they gain valuable sustainability leadership skills and knowledge.”

According to students, another key advantage of the Sustainability Scholars program is the required Sustainability and the Campus course, which challenges student teams to act like consultants to develop an innovative solution to a real-life sustainability challenge on the U-M Campus.

“The Sustainability and the Campus (Environ/RC 391) class completely redefined my trajectory at U-M,” said Scholars Program Alumnus Abby Krombein, who co-developed and launched the university-wide Planet Blue Student Innovation Fund (PBSIF) through the class. Now in its third year, PBSIF offers up to $50,000 per year to support large-scale, student-led sustainability projects on campus.

Scholars Alumnus Abby Kaufman, who pursued a University Unions sustainability education program as her class project, elaborated: “To be able to work on an authentic project and communicate with real stakeholders on campus was a great educational opportunity and a means of building professional skills, as well. It makes the learning and work so much more meaningful when students can engage in thinking about how to positively contribute to their community.”

The Graham Scholars Program is currently accepting applications from second-year undergraduate students in all schools and colleges at the university. Those accepted will begin the program starting next fall, upon the start of their junior year. The deadline to apply is January 15, 2014.  Details are available at